a show about innovations that can change lives. >> the science of fighting a humanity and we are doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science by scientists. . >> tonight "techknow" vets the virus hunters. >> we want to understand the evolution of these pathogens. >> this team deals with the
planet. >> all the damage microscopic agent. lindsay moran is ex-c.i.a., she's about to join them. entering a biolab. >> sorry, we cannot confirm your identity concern? >> what is going to be like ebola, but we haven't seen it yet. dr charlotte mcshane is a mechanical engineer. tonight what she learnt about tornados. phil torres. i'm phil torres. 'm an entomologist. that's hour team, nout let's do some science. hey, guys, welcome to
"techknow", joined by dr ross shimabuku, and lindsay moran. microscopic things have been making news. viruses. take ebola - it caught america offguard. in some places we overreacted and in other places we doesn't do enough. >> there's a lot of scare around ebola, because we don't know much about it, compared to measles. which is also a hot topic. >> when we think of diseases we tend to think of containment. how do we contain them. i had an opportunity to meet a small group of scientists who are seeking out the pathogens in order to understand it. it might surprise people that metropolis. that's good reason for that. let's have a look. >> reporter: we are all vulnerable to the
tiny viruses. >> microscopic agents causing big diseases. >> reporter: these infectious agents know now boundaries and in today's hyper connective world, they can move fast. like others, like small pox are eradicated. others spring back to life when we are not vigilantful. safety. >> more than 400 in mexico have contracted measles. >> reporter: then there are the new kids s.a.r.s., avian bird flu and ebola. >> emerging viruses cause two-thirds of recognised diseases in the world. >> reporter: scientists are trying to unlock the mystery of how they infiltrate us. to study them, you need to contain them first.
the need neidl is one of those places. in boston i'm standing in front of a $2-00 million facility, a biosafety building for lab, a prison for pathogens like the ebola virus. we have been granted access before it goes hot - that is plays host to the world's most lethal viruses. >> people call the containment lads containment on steroids, because of the enormous number of redundancies and safety measures. tour. >> you are walking around the outside of the biosafety level. the people inside are working with bio safety level two ates in preparation for getting the laboratory operational. >> reporter: inside researchers wear air-tight positive pressure suits, also known as space suits, and have their own separate air supply.
>> what makes a bio safety level 3. >> the key one is engineering. buildings have to be built as a continuous pour concrete, so heb you decontaminate you can fill them with hydrogen peroxide and destroy everything in the room. >> reporter: it's a building within a building. >> yes. >> reporter: the bsl-4 has a 16 inch heavily rebarred concrete floor, embedded in the bedrock. if there were an earthquake the two buildings would shape independently. keeping pathogens secure during death. >> bio safety level 4 is restricted to the pathogens considered exotic, and for which vaccines.
>> researchers must pass through stainless steel doors set up as air locks. it's a chemical decontamination shower that scientists must stand under after doing research in. bsl-4. there are other similar safeguards. john, associate director of reference safety took me through the guts of the needle. >> where are we now? >> we are right above the biosafety level-4 labs in the mechanical space. this serves the labs. the majority of what you see, these are housing. hefa, higher efficiency particulate air filters. they filter out particles, and think viruses. >> air goes through the hepar filter twice before being released to the outside world. liquid waste is treated in a different way. >> these walls have double wall piping.
we have a sample here. >> reporter: what is the point of the pipe within the pipe. >> if the inner pipe that the liquid is flowing through develops a leak, it would flow into the outer pipe and become tamed. there is senses there alerting the building automation system. there would be an alarm. >> waste is disinfected, and it flows to the tanks, where they are heated at 120 degrees for 60 minutes, to kill off anything that might remain. and then, of course, there's the human factor. >> i'll tell by the positive pressure suit that we wear in the bsl-4. and i'll hopefully get you into this. >> reporter: okay, i've got my right? >> not quite. you have jewellery on, rings, diamond rings can compromise the gloves. off. >> you see the air drops. when the air comes in through
the hose, push the collar, as soon as that is connected and locked in, you have air flowing as you can hear. that is what you need to breathe. it's really important to ensure the integrity of the suit before you put it on. it looks like it's bearing up very well. make sure that all of the seams are good. >> reporter: it's like checking a raft. >> it is. >> reporter: after rechecking for holes, researchers get in the inner layer. >> before getting in this is something we have to do, put the gloves on, and wiggle your feet to the booties. >> it's making me think the getting my kids into snow suits. >> you want to reach behind you with your right hand and find the inner seam here. >> reporter: duck my head in.
>> yes, there you go. i would plug into air. there you are. good. >> reporter: it's different comfortable. it's like ventilated pyjamas. only after training and security background checks are scientists given clearance to do research in the bsl lab. >> please move a little back from the camera. identity. >> when i think of the scientific community, i think of a different culture than the security community. is there a clash of culture in a facility like this? >> yes. i think it's a healthy clash. it's part of the every day resistance. if you want to study these pathogens, you have to develop a comfort level with the security
pathogens. >> reporter: security is so tight that even for demo, this was the end of the line for my access. despite this, the n i.e.d. l has faced a number of political ramifications. this was completed in 2008 but will not be operational until this year. >> right. one of the things the country asked for is give us a risk safety that honestly evaluates scientifically the risk of a community like this, in the end was a risk assessment that says these facilities are incredibly safe and secure, and the chances of multiple failures leading to a release of a pathogen that would influence the population is next to zero. zero coming up next - meet the virus hunters. >> we want to develop tools,
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infected animals, we don't have immunity to them. >> when viruses jump species, it's called zoouno sis, and transmission is more common. researchers believe that patient zero, for the outbreak of ebola, was a 2-year-old in guinea, and came in contact with bats, while playing in a hollow tree. the director of tissue imaging, and a microbiologist who species. >> we want to develop tools to understand the evolution of these pathogens, what signals might there be that says the virus is acquiring the ability to infect different species. >> reporter: in order to study how the pathogens evolve he uses recombatant technology.
genes from jelly fish are fused with the viruses. >> that gene makes a protein which whenever we shine a light on it, a blue light, it blows bright green. that allows us to sensitively detect where that virus is from the minute it infects a cell and produces genetic material. >> this is a single cell infected. see the spikes. it sticks nice and tightly to the cell. you can go in really, really close >> reporter: even in the still you can see what is happening. >> we understand the bits of the cell that the vir suss hijacking -- virus is hijacking, you can interfere with the process.
one of the diseases is not one of the emerging viruses. it's one that has been with humanity for thousands of years - measles. >> measles virus is the most infectious human pathogen on the planet. it beats ebola. it gates flew -- it beats flue. the viruses no, no borders. we want to understand the basic people. >> reporter: basic research of measles can lead to pathogens. >> if you think of measles, it's a bsl-2 ate. gent. we vaccinate the workers and it allows us to develop tools and techniques, and approaches, and then move in a
direction where bsl-3 pathogens and pathogens. >> reporter: once they are set up to work in bsl face, another team will prepare the supply of viruses needed for research. >> what we will do is... >> this is the director of biomolecular production, and is no stranger to the space shoot, spending two decades researching the family of viruses that ebola belongs to. what is it like to work wearing one of those cumbersome suits. >> it's habit. >> reporter: you like it. >> it's a quiet world. no one distracts you >> reporter: she has pioneered studying outside these settings. >> at that time i was interested in the machinery the viruses
bring in to amplify their own genome. we came up with a system to study the process to be used in a bso 2 setting. i remember for the first time seeing how it worked, it worked. it was one of the best moments in my life. >> reporter: eureka moments are rare in virology, when they happen, they have the potential to save millions of lives. basic treatments lead to treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tools. microbiologist worked with engineers to create a device to diagnose ebola. >> there was a good survivor rate when people are identified early and treated early in west africa, getting a diagnosis is not fast. samples need to be sent to a specialised lap, often hundreds of miles away. days. >> what we settled on is a
technology where basically what we do is take a silicon chip, and we can put capture agents that will bind to the ebola virus. and if the virus is present, the antibodies will capture the virus, and we can shine l.e.d. light on to the chip. this is the type of result you get back where you can say on the positive tests here, you can see there's a strong signal. >> results are available in an hour. devices are portable and can be operated at the point of care. >> can it be used to diagnose other infectious diseases. >> yes, you can imagine, dividing it into parr asites and others, to a small chip will give you a good powerful asset that is such and sensitive. >> reporter: what is coming up next. what will be like ebola, but we haven't seen it yet?
>> i don't know that we need to go looking for the next ebola as an unknown. the next outbreak is likely something that we know about already. it underscores the importance of not focussing on them in a way it's a catch 22. we have to study the diseases to under them. but it makes people nervous, even the thought of having the pathogens around. >> just because the pathogen is not here now doesn't mean it can't be flown over on an air plane. our best defense for public safety is to understand the diseases and find ways to treat them where they are. that's the importance from a public health perspective of having facilities like this in the united states. >> that's why we have to stay a step ahead of them, we bring
them in here to work with them we were afforded a unique window of opportunity. once the lab is hot, there'll be interviews. >> this is a brief window that we were able to get in there, see how it's done and get out before the viruses. >> exactly. >> there were some viruss in thatting about. >> yes, but not bsl-4. >> bsl-4. that's the big leagues. >> yes. >> many of us read books like "the hot zone", or seen "contagens", or"outbreak", it makes for great danger. how close is it? >> pretty close. as i toured the facility i had thought of some of those movies. but the reality is scientists working day in, day out, leaving
strict protocol and i left with far greater confidence that something like that couldn't happen in the united states, or it won't happen soon. >> there are people looking out for us. >> very smart people looking out answers. >> that was an amazing story, showing us what it's like there. from ground zero of the pathogens to ground zero of the tornado. next? >> i got to step inside a tornado lab at university. i got to feel like beyonce, swirled around in >> sunday. >> you're taking "if" i have kids and you're changing it to "when" i have kids. >> a life-changing choice. >> it is wonderful to have children, but i think you can have a happy life without children. >> follow a very personal journey. >> after the age of 45 to get pregnant... is one percent. >> i'm a bit nervous. >> from the best filmmakers
[ ♪ music ♪ ] hey, guys, welcome back to techknow, i'm phil torres, joined by dr shini somara, and lindsay moran. one of my favourite things about science is we are able to capture mother nature in a lab, take the phenomenon and see them at a university. >> yes, there's nothing more amazing than being able to recreate weather, that's what they were able to do at texas tech university. i got experience a tornado let's take a look. my first shoot for "techknow" was all about tornado technology, which was incredible. that's my area of expertise. it was so exciting flying to oklahoma and texas, where we got to see the facilities being used to research tornados. the passage of this is to learn about the innovation incorporated into building
regulations to keep people safe during a tornado. at texas tech they establish the wind institute. and it's there that they have one of the largest tornado simulation laboratories. >> this is vor tech. >> it's great meeting the professor, who talked me through the design of the lab. we create tornado-like things that mimic the wind speed. >> he is making the steps to understand how tornados are formulated. essential. >> there's a lot of different types of tornados. we can mimic them in here. >> by creating a scaled down version, you can see how it takes shape from the pressure senses to temperature, to the sped some tore and the abbing seller some terse. that
technology was underneath. >> i'll go turn it on and we'll have some fun. >> you had the slits in the floor in the lab. through there he can release smoke. that was a beautiful moment for me. i have only seen how air flows on a computer screen. i could see up close and personally how the smoke was formulating into a complex air flow. twisting, turning, hair was going everywhere. felt like beyonce for a moment. it gave me goose bumps that he was creating a space that could mimic the forces of nature. this is the start of understanding how they not only formulate, but how they impact scaled down models of typical homes i got to play with one, and you can see it lifting off its feet.
>> that happens in real life. possibilities are endless in terms of understanding the effect that tornados have on our lives. i spent 4.5 years studying how air flows, but using computer simulation. but i have never experienced air flowing against my skin with that kind of force. this kind of experimentation is important. yes, the engineers are having fun creating a lab like that, and it's necessary for improving building codes and making shelters safer for people. having grown up with the iconic whiched ard of odd, tornado was a fear as a kid. i can't imagine what it would be vortex. >> it's a problem with tornado in the united states. on average, they get 1,000 a
year, and the next highest rate of tornados is in canada, and they get 100 a year. >> from the microscopic viruses and lab to tornados, scientists have the work cut out for them, approaching this in creative ways. that's to this week on "techknow", be sure to check us dive deep into these stories and go behind the scenes at aljazeera.com. >> criminal gangs risking lives >> it's for this... 3 grams of gold >> killing our planet >> where it's blood red... that's where the mercury is most intense >> now, fighting back with science... >> we fire a laser imaging system out of the bottom of the plane >> revealing the deadly human threat >> because the mercury is dumped into the rivers and lakes, it then gets into the food chain... >> that's hitting home >> it ends up on the dinner
plate of people... >> techknow only on al jazeera america ♪ the men vying to be israel's next prime minister polling begins in one of the closest general election in years. hello and welcome to al jazeera, live from doha i'm julie and also coming up in the program, the battle for cert they attack i.s.i.l. fighters for control of the city. scenes of devastation in the south pacific as the scale of destruction in vanuatu becomes clear four days after the cyclone. and f